Godspeed You! Black Emperor: G-d's Pee at State's End! (Constellation/digital outlets)

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Fire at Static Valley
Godspeed You! Black Emperor: G-d's Pee at State's End! (Constellation/digital outlets)

Part way between sonic experimentalism, prog-rock and a socio-political manifesto (in the titles of its tracks), this quite remarkable instrumental album by the Canadian band which has been around for a decade and a half delivering what has loosely been called post-rock.

In it's most narrow definition post-rock is music using traditional rock instruments to deliver something other than standard rock tropes.

So soundscapes, artistic disruption and a sense of high drama all fall within that parameter, and GY!BE deliver all of that and more in these four expansive tracks, the two longest with intra-titles which translate to eight pieces on some digital platforms.

Such divisions seem oddly unnecessary because what is here is best listened to all of a piece even if the 20 minute instrumental opener A Military Alphabet (five eyes all blind) – a tour de force of building tension, intensity and volume – will have you reaching to tighten the seatbelt about the 12 minute mark.

With swirling guitars (three players credited), bass (two) drums (two) and Sophie Trudeau on violins and organ, there is a heroic majesty to this attention-getting starter.

GS!BE also manage a quiet beauty (the space ambience of the follow-up Fire at Static Valley which only requires images to place you somewhere beyond the moons of Saturn).

But the 20 minute centrepiece Government Came (with lengthy intra-titles denoting the mood shifts) is -- after some throat clearing and static, noise and “voices off” – the showstopper.

An ominous piece which challenges definition and description, it is something akin to a prog piece which starts in a world where the robots have been defeated and a sense of melancholy has descended on the blighted city. Out of the ashes and minor chords there are flickers of hope (Trudeau's melancholy but humanising violin) and the march back to civilisation begins again after the first third and into the quieter middle section . . . but towards the end you suspect Mankind is no wiser for the experience.

Sound a bit pretentious? Well, me for sure, but the music not.

The final piece is Our Side Has to Win is a slow building denouement of cinematic drones which might remind you to watch Ridley Scott's Prometheus again.

This is far from being an album for everyone, and may be best appreciated by those who know GS!BE's aural landscape.

But it is really quite something in its own not-prog/art music expansiveness.


You can hear and buy this album at bandcamp here but it is also available on gatefold double vinyl with a 10'' from Southbound Records in Auckland here

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